Dante’s Divine Comedy


"Dante e il suo Poema", by Domenico di Michelino. 
 

Dante’s main literary work “La Divina Commedia” was written in the northern parts of Italy between c. 1308-1321 and is in Dante’s own words a “poly-semantic” work, meaning a work with several different meanings. On a literal level it is about a Journey through the three realms of the after-life with Inferno, Purgatory and Paradiso, to show the rewards and punishments resulting according to our exercise of our own Free Will. Meaning the consequences of our choices and values in life, on a longer time scale. And also the tremendous opportunities there are, to create a good and fulfilling Life.

Dante’s main purpose was to write a work that would also move people in the “here-life” from a state of Misery to a state of Happiness and Felicit√†. He is laying out the argument of “wrong aims” and the vices first, and then through the second book how to mitigate and counter these impulses and inclinations with the virtues and a much deeper intellectual and philosophical understanding of the often mistakes underlying some of the vices. A general theme is the Role of Reason (through Virgil) to manage your own nature, as essential to avoiding the many pitfalls in life. But also crucial is the appreciation of the beyond, the mystery of Life, and the humility of recognizing and also appreciating the limits and boundaries of the capacities of our own Intellect. This becomes even more clear towards the end of the Purgatory Mountain, with the spiritual life and Beatrice becoming the Guide for a further Journey towards Knowledge, Understanding, Salvation and Happiness.

There is also a much deeper point being made in the trilogy of how the three different realms and stories constitute a whole which contains much more than its three separate parts. The countless levels in the Comedy overall makes the implicit argument that there is a structure to Knowledge and Being, that we can learn the nature of these levels through climbing and ascending the mountain and the spheres, and which in many ways could make us become able to perceive, interpret and experience the world much more clearly. And the implicit effect becomes that one can rebuild an apparatus in one’s mind for apprehending the world through studying the Comedy, which will alter your Being and change your expansion of Being perpetually, once the work is fully digested.

The Comedy is a work that might take years and decades to read fully, and in some ways it is a work that might become a companion in one’s life over time. The beauty and inspiration is present in every canto and sometimes in abundance in a single tercet, with deep wisdom and insights for the Good Life. And it could also make our own Journey of Life a fuller and richer experience filled with much more brightness, insights, and Joy.

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